Since the 1980’s the concept of “Eco-tourism” has gained popularity as people wish to travel the world whilst making a positive contribution to the flora and fauna in the places they visit. Wildlife related tourism is now a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide and is for many nations the linchpin of their economy. Whilst genuine eco-tourism can be hugely beneficial to wildlife and wilderness areas, unregulated tourism can also be incredibly damaging.
Therefore it has to be managed correctly in order to achieve conservation or welfare goals. Sadly though, as the industry has become lucrative, many unethical organisations and individuals have jumped on board the bandwagon and cleverly market their experience, or volunteer project, by using trigger words like “eco” “conservation” and “sanctuary”. They market themselves strongly towards animal lovers and hence good, well-meaning people who care about animals are susceptible to falling into a variety of tourist traps.
Animal exploitation for entertainment and tourism occurs all over the world. However, people tend to be more easily conned into engaging in unethical activities when they are traveling due to a desire to experience all the new and exciting things on offer in different countries. In our haste and enthusiasm to get involved in novel things we tend not to do our research or consider things as deeply as they would when they are back home in their comfort zone and hence we fall into ‘tourist traps’. When traveling it’s easy to subconsciously assume that because something is on offer it must be ethical or acceptable, and sadly this is often far from the truth.
Animal related tourism takes many forms and we will discuss the main industries within. However, this information is not all encompassing and before embarking on any animal-related tourism you should be sure that you do thorough research so that you don’t unwittingly contribute to unethical practices. Please feel free to download our guide here but please don’t press print, it’s a big document and we like trees!